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Main Street manager plows ahead with plans

Ingrid Mezo

(1/6) Thurmont’s new Main Street Maryland manager, Vickie Grinder, has already started working on ways to revitalize the downtown and attract tourists to the area.

The Main Street Maryland Program aims to help small cities and towns revitalize their economies, appearance and downtown business-to-business relations. The program focuses on four areas of revitalization: design, organization, promotion and economic restructuring. Thurmont was accepted into the state program in May.

As volunteer president of Thurmont’s Economic Development Committee for the past two years, Grinder had been essentially doing the job of Main Street Manager already, making her the perfect candidate for the position.

‘‘We had made so many strides in the last two years and it became very interesting," Grinder said. ‘‘I developed a lot of friends and contacts."

Town officials selected Grinder to run the Main Street program on Dec. 1.

‘‘She along with myself and John Kinnaird spearheaded the effort to get Thurmont into the Main Street program, so she knows all about the program," Commissioner Bill Blakeslee said.

In addition, Grinder was instrumental in writing the town’s application to get in, which is an arduous process, Blakeslee said. Of the seven municipalities that said they would apply for the program last year, only four completed the application, and only two were accepted into the program.

‘‘Our application was said to be right up there with the best applications they ever received," Blakeslee said.

In her first year as Main Street manager, Grinder will work part-time, about 20 hours a week, she said. Grinder will be paid from the $45,000 budget the town set aside this year for the program. Grinder will be paid on an hourly basis rather than receiving a salary, she said.

She is expecting her office in the Creager House on Church Street to open by Tuesday. Her hours will vary depending on the needs of the project she is working on.

As Main Street manager, Grinder will facilitate committee meetings, which will focus on design, economic restructuring, promotions and organization.

The design committee focuses on the appearance of the downtown area. The economic restructuring committee checks into grants and raising money, Grinder said.

‘‘This committee will not write grants, but will see what is out there," Grinder said. ‘‘It involves constant networking and raising funds."

The promotions committee is currently working on a full-color, foldout brochure for Thurmont promoting the downtown and the entire community, which it plans to take to welcome centers throughout the state. This committee also focuses on event planning for town activities such as Christmas in Thurmont and the Business Expo.

Some other projects that Main Street committees have been working on include getting the State Highway Administration to restructure some of the signs on U.S. Route 15 in the Thurmont corridor and in town to give more accurate descriptions of exits to help visitors find businesses in town.

‘‘The signs that are there now are very confusing to [visitors]," Grinder said.

The state approved the town’s request three weeks ago, and Grinder expects the new signs will be up in September.

Signs in town will help guide commercial trucks to industrial areas and shoppers to retail areas, and will prohibit large trucks from turning at the town square, Blakeslee said.

In addition, the Main Street committees will be working with Frederick County tourism officials and the state to develop signs on Route 15 to get people and into the town, which Grinder expects to have completed by fall 2007.

Banners advertising businesses will be posted on lampposts downtown sometime in April or May, Grinder said.

Among some of the future plans for the town that Main Street committee members have already suggested are placing more benches downtown, using more attractive trash containers and making business owners aware of programs available to help them make repairs to their buildings, Blakeslee said.

Grinder grew up in Hagerstown and Columbia, Md., and moved to Thurmont in 1999 after living in Carroll Valley for seven years. She graduated from South Hagerstown High School and attended American University in Washington, D.C., where she studied business.

Grinder has been general manager of The Cozy Restaurant, Country Inn and Shoppes since 1996, and will continue to work there while she is Main Street manager, she said.

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